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The Lion in Winter is a 1966 Broadwaymarker play by James Goldman, who also cinematically adapted it in 1968 for the film directed by Anthony Harvey and a 2003 film by Andrei Konchalovsky.

Production history

Original Broadway production

The play's premier was in the Ambassador Theatremarker, New York Citymarker on 3 March, 1966, directed by Noel Willman featuring Rosemary Harris as Queen Eleanor and Robert Preston as King Henry II, James Rado as Richard the Lionhearted and Christopher Walken as his lover, King Philip of France. The production was nominated for two Tony Awards and Rosemary Harris was awarded the Best Actress prize. It had a run of 92 performances.

Revival

The play was revived in March, 1999, at the Criterion Center Stage Right, with Stockard Channing as Queen Eleanor and Laurence Fishburne as King Henry II, directed by Michael Mayer. Channing was nominated for a best actress Tony prize, and the production ran for 93 performances.

Film adaptations

Main article, see The Lion in Winter


The film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Peter O'Toole), Best Director (Anthony Harvey), and Best Costume Design. The film won three Academy Awards: Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Best Screenplay (James Goldman), and Best Score (John Barry).

Main article, see The Lion in Winter


Synopsis

The Lion in Winter occurs during Christmas 1183 at Henry Plantagenet's château and primary residence in Chinonmarker, Anjoumarker, within the Angevin Empire of medieval Francemarker. The play opens with the arrival of his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine from prison; the story immediately centres on the personality conflicts and shifting alliances among the estranged couple and their adult sons and heirs to the throne: Prince Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199, the future King Richard I of England 1189-1199), Prince Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany (1158-1186), and Prince John (1166-1216, the future King John of England 1199-1216).

Also in the château, pursuing their own intrigues with the royal family are King Philip II of France, the son of the late King Louis VII of France (Eleanor's ex-husband), and Philip II's half-sister Alais, a daughter of Louis VII. Alais was betrothed to Richard I, but is Henry II's mistress; in reality, Henry had many mistresses and bastards. The "Rosamund" mentioned in the film was Henry II's mistress until she died.

In the movie, alliances constantly shift; almost every statement is a falsehood or half truth as family members attempt to manipulate each other for their own goals. A subtext of the movie is a commentary on the source of war and human misery, that it results not from geopolitics and macrolevel forces but from within the individuals who lead and populate nations.

The Lion in Winter is fictional: there was no Christmas Court at Chinon in 1183; there was a Christmas court at Caenmarker in 1182; none of the dialogue and action is historic, though the outcomes of the characters and the background are historically accurate. The article on the Revolt of 1173-1174 describes the historical events leading to the play's events.

Characters

Henry II, King of England

(Male, 50) In his time, at fifty, men were either old or dead. Yet Henry is still very nearly as he ever was.His manipulations of family and others are portrayed as spontaneous and emotional as opposed to the well thought out strategems of Eleanor, and the cold, calculating machinations of Geoffrey. This leaves his character being somewhat likeable, despite his many shortcomings.

Queen Eleanor

(Female, 61) Eleanor is the wife of Henry and a beautiful woman of great temperament, authority and presence. She has been a queen for nearly 46 years and while possessing feminine qualities, she is thoroughly capable of holding her own in a man's world. She schemes against Henry and intensely loves him at the same time. She has contempt for the children but is not willing to see them harmed by Henry.

John

(Male, 17) He is the youngest son of Henry and Eleanor, sulky and sullen, with a boyish outlook on his position. Many in the play describe him as a spoiled brat. He is described in the play as pimply and smelling of compost. He is Henry's favorite, but also the weakest. He constantly vacillates throughout the play, not out of cleverness, but out of fear and weakness. He is easily tricked and manipulated by Geoffrey.

Geoffrey

(Male, 25) He is a son of Henry and Eleanor, and a man of energy and action. He is attractive, charming and the "brain" of the family. He is portrayed as coldly scheming with no personal warmth. His view of himself is that he was not loved by either parent, but actually he reveals (at one point) that he greatly yearned for the love he felt he never received.

Richard the Lionheart

(Male, 26) Currently the eldest son of Henry and Eleanor, he is handsome, graceful and impressive. He has been a famous soldier since his middle teens. War is his profession and he is good at it, he is easily the strongest and toughest of the three sons/princes. Yet Philip Capet makes a very pointed reference to Richard's homosexuality (with Philip himself on an earlier occasion) during a discussion in Philip's chambers. There are veiled references to an overly close relationship with Eleanor in his childhood, that has made him who he is. This has led to a very problematic love/hate relationship with his mother. He is also a ticking time bomb.

Alais Capet

(Female, 23) She is beautiful and in love with Henry. Everyone underestimates her intellect and power.She is initially portrayed as innocent, but by the end of play has begun to acquire a ruthless streak of her own, insisting that Henry imprison his three sons for the rest of their lives in the dungeon.

Philip Capet, King of France

(Male, 18) He has been King of France for three years. He is not initially as accomplished as Henry in manipulating people, but seems to acquire greater skills at this during the play. He is impressive and handsome without being pretty.

See also



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